Sunday, May 6, 2012

{a few side trips along the way}

oberndorf & steinbach-am-attersee
what's in oberndorf, austria you might ask? don't worry, i had the same question. 
this building is what brought us to oberndorf. 
this special little chapel is called the "silent night chapel." this is where the hymn "silent night" was first performed. we had the cutest little tour guides (and old man and woman who ran the chapel and museum) tell us the history of how this place came to be.

we sat inside this tiny chapel and listened to the the history. as our tour guide finished his words, our directors asked if we could sing the hymn in german. he agreed and they handed out the words to all of us. remember how i'm on this program with a bunch of music majors? well, the song was phenomenal. it was the most beautiful i've ever heard it sung as we all split into parts. our tour guide listened intently as tears filled his eyes, and couldn't help but burst into song on the last chorus. we were all overcome with the spirit of this sacred song and the aura of the building only added to this amazing experience. the man expressed his gratitude to us for singing so beautifully, telling us it was the most beautiful he'd ever heard it sung. he was left speechless, and so were we. 

the altar inside 

after the tour, we spent a little time exploring outside. we were informed that right across the river was germany! it was so cool to see a different country, just a few feet away from us.

well, we didn't just stop at taking a picture in front of it. i'd wanted to go to germany since i'd been here, and wasn't going to have the opportunity. until now! see that bridge on the right? that's right, we sprinted over there and raced across the bridge, thrilled that we got to go spend a minute or two in germany! 

this trip has proven that dreams really do come true.

after our memorable time in oberndorf, we hopped back on the bus and headed for gustav mahler's composing hut in steinbach-am-attersee.

it was nestled on the shore of an isolated lake full of crystal-clear water as far as the eye can see. 

me.aly.alexa.paige&her cutest dirndl!

the water was so clear, they said it was safe enough to drink. 
well, i wasn't going to pass this experience up!

easy, easssyyyy!

i'm ok! 

here goes nothing..


i think i just swallowed a bug.

let me try this just one more time..

i'm alive!!!

mauthausen is a large group of nazi concentration camps located in upper austria. as our bus approached this solemn monument, it was incased in a cloudy gloom that surrounding this somber place. we were all given audioguides and were on our own to explore the grounds of mauthausen. i didn't have a jacket and the cold air quickly cut to my body, but i found it impossible to complain as the lady on the recording informed me how the nazi's would strip the new prisoners of everything they owned and made them stand outside for sometimes days at a time, even in the dead of winter.

those are the gates the prisoners were led through when they were forced into the camp. it was the only way in, and the only way out, heavily guarded by soldiers at all times. the dirt road was the place for role call which was held multiple times a day, depending on the officer in charge. the two green buildings on the side are the only housing units left in the camp.

the austrian people had erected many monument to honor the people who lost their lives in this camp.

this is the place prisoners would often escape to when they were actually able to make it this far out of the camp. the barbed wire is a monument, for me, signifying the impossibility of freedom no matter how hard they tried.

this was one of the most sobering spots on the tour. here jewish prisoners were forced to carry heavy loads up the stairs. the malnourished prisoners would often buckle under the weight of the object they were carrying, and fall down the stairs at the expense of their lives and others who they came in contact with. nazi solider's also forced jews to push other jews off the cliff edge in the lake, resulting in their death.

despite the awful things that were done in this terrible concentration camp, i came to know it as a place of reverence and respect to those who lost their lives here. i was deeply touched by each memorial placed here as a sign of respect to the jewish victims of the holocaust. 

melk? milk? malk?
yeah, don't worry. it bothered me too!
every time someone said melk, i wanted to say, "it's pronounced milk!!!" and then i realized they were talking about the city. melk was, of course, so pretty! it's said to be the most scenic place to visit if you want to see an abbey. and that we did!

you can see the melk abbey behind us!
(hint: it's yellow)

we got to tour the inside of the abbey. it had a bit of a modern twist to it, and we were informed that the monks intended it to be that way so tourists would be assured that melk abbey is still in operation.

since a monk's life is dedicated to studying, this abbey had one of the most immaculate of book collections i'd ever seen!
our tour guide told us that if we wanted to read every book in this library we'd have to speak 50 different languages, and live to be over 130 years old.

 stairs from the library into the cathedral.

the cathedral!!
the most baroque piece of architecture you'll ever see in your life!
it was incredible.

melk was a perfect use of our last few hours together as a group, and a beautifully unique way to end our two week excursion.

wellp, by the end of this excursion my toms had take their last step. they had had enough of me and they made it quite evident. my host mom helga saw me wearing these and threatened to come to canada, bribe me there, and beat me with them if i took them back to the states with me.
may they rest in peace.

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